New realities and new risks

November 30, 2010

I’m enjoying participating in the meeting of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Councils in Dubai.  It goes without saying that the world is a very volatile place and this is a great time of change. There are countless new risks coming from unpredictable places and the old rules and mechanisms for global cooperation and problem solving are not up to the challenge.

Many economists are warning us to buckle down for a period of prolonged sluggishness, reminiscent of Japan’s lost decade or the Swedish crisis of 1992. But evidence is mounting that the current global slump is not just cyclical, but rather symptomatic of a deeper secular change. I’m convinced that we need to rethink and rebuild many of the organizations and institutions that have served us well for decades, but now have come to the end of their life cycle.

There is a case to be made that industrial economy and many of its institutions have finally run out of gas — from newspapers and old models of financial services to our energy grid, transportation systems and institutions for global cooperation and problem solving.  At the same time the contours of a new kind of civilization are becoming clear. Society has at its disposal the most powerful platform ever for bringing together the people, skills and knowledge we need to ensure growth, social development and a just and sustainable world.

In Dubai we are talking about the new realities and new risks. The web provides a new platform to understand and respond to a range of global risks in a more collaborative and proactive and inclusive manner.  We’ll be working to build a global risk response mechanism, or “Global Situation Space.”
I’m involved in a council looking at how societies can inform themselves in this new networked age and we’ll be elaborating key trends, risks/opportunities, probabilities, impact, response and contingency for a new context in which information is not longer composed of atoms but has been unleashed.  Stay tuned.